With an order issued on 17 November 2022 (available here), the Court of Venice, Second Chamber, has enjoined Ravensburger AG, Ravensburger Verlag GmBH and Ravensburger S.r.l. from using for commercial purposes the image of the famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man, drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in 1490, setting a penalty of EUR 1,500 for each day of delay by Ravensburger in complying with the decision of the Court.

The order, which was issued on appeal following a previous rejection on grounds of lack of competence, is based on the Italian Cultural Heritage and Landscape Code (Legislative Decree no. 42 of 22 January 2004, hereinafter “Cultural Heritage Code”), which under Article 106 et seq. provides i.a. that public territorial bodies or cultural institutions may request concession fees to allow the use and reproduction of cultural property they have on consignment and in any event assess whether such uses are compatible with the cultural purpose of such works of art.

According to Article 108, the concession fees may be calculated i.a. based on the nature of the activities to which the concessions of use refer, the means of reproduction, the use and purpose of the reproductions, as well as the economic benefits to the applicant.

The case was brought together with the Minister of Cultural Heritage by the “Gallerie dell’Accademia”, one of the main State museums in Venice, which has the Vitruvian Man on display (although rarely available to the public for preservation purposes).

As reported in the order, the Gallerie had informed Ravensburger of the circumstances which led to the injunction already in 2019, sending out a cease and desist letter and requesting that Ravensburger pay the 10% royalty provided by the internal regulation of the museum (adopted in accordance with the Cultural Heritage Code) in order to use the image of the Vitruvian Man drawing for its puzzles.

In deciding the case, the Court of Venice rejected various objections raised by Ravensburger, including the objection that the Cultural Heritage Code could only apply to the activities in Italy. To the contrary, the decision notably extended application of the Cultural Heritage Code also to the German counterparts of the Ravensburger group, on grounds that Italian law would apply to the entire matter, which reflects a unitary conduct by the defendants, and that the conducts of the Ravensburger defendants abroad also affect the image of the artwork which is located in Venice.